If you were one of the lucky folks who heard Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson’s keynote at 2022 Kids on March 29th, you heard a beautiful call to action that both challenged us and brought a balm to our souls. As Dr. Wilson said, “Young people have a voice and a capacity for gathering us up,” and he talked about the power of young people to speak from their pain and change the agenda.
Using a moving Langston Hughes poem as lectionary, Rev. Dr. Wilson challenged us as advocates to “Let America Be America Again,” by seeing our children differently, slowing down our urgent processes, and creating space for youth – the true experts on what’s going on with youth – to be heard and to lead.
Watch this powerful clip from his speech:
Young people’s leadership
Dr. Wilson reaffirmed the importance of centering youth voices in our agencies’ leadership bodies and our advocacy. Young leaders picked up that thread on Wednesday in the panel on Gen-Z advocates. Aminah Jenkins, Sam Hiner and Cal Andersen helped us understand how to put youth right at the center.
“Once you get people in the door, you need to make sure they feel like the space is theirs…Ask people what they want and what they need.” – Cal Andersen, Engagement Associate at the NC Budget & Tax Center
The nature of power
Letha Muhammed of Education Justice Alliance reminded us in her plenary remarks that young people, Black and brown children, communities impacted by poverty and injustice, already have power. And children are well aware of it. Our political system often perpetuates a lie that the people who are furthest from opportunity are also powerless – and we should never believe or buy into that lie.
The importance of joy
Every speaker at 2022 Kids came from a place of passion and commitment. The work for children is deeply personal. As a result, it can feel incredibly heavy to us – both when things go well, and when things don’t go well.
Stephanie Terry of Chatham Organizing for Racial Equity (CORE) talked about CORE’s commitment to self-care, joy, music, food and celebration. We need to take time for togetherness, rest, and rejuvenation – because this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Don’t give up
Working authentically in communities impacted by poverty and injustice is hard – and we will make mistakes. So many of the speakers at 2022 Kids acknowledged this and urged us all to keep trying, not to give up when we stumble. Elaine Utin challenged us to use “radical imagination” in reflecting on our mistakes and coming up with new strategies to make a better future for our kids. Those closest to the challenges – our children – are closest to the opportunities to reimagine.
In the “Leading by Following” panel, Gina Brown, Nikia Bye, and Ramon Zepeda encouraged us all to never give up on our communities:
Dr. Wilson spoke about “elevated moments” – moments that rise above the everyday and capture us at our best. Elevated moments are social in nature. He told us, “They give us the power for transformation in our time.” Thank you for gathering together with us at 2022 Kids for an elevated moment that invited us all in and called us back to the best of ourselves.
Want to catch some of the workshops you missed at 2022 Kids? Check out the full playlist here.